Leveraging Shopper Research to Drive Brand Performance and Retail Success: An Interview with Andy Grout

Introduction

Every business looking to launch or expand a brand in today’s fiercely competitive commercial landscape knows it’s no small feat. By any measure of distribution, rate of sale, buyer penetration, or frequency of purchase, we know that up to 65% of all new product launches fail. A significant reason behind this statistic is that some businesses don’t set their brands up for success. One tweak to their approach can change everything. It all comes down to research and building a powerful understanding of the commercial environment and the shoppers you’re targeting.

In this interview, Andy Grout, Head of Research at Bridgethorne, part of Ceuta Group, an IQVIA business, explains the intricacies of shopper research. Read on to unveil the profound impact of shopper research on brand performance, from forging strong brand-retailer partnerships to driving sales in-store and developing meaningful connections with consumers.

“It all comes down to research and building a powerful understanding of the commercial environment and the shoppers you’re targeting.”

1 – Let’s start by defining what shopper research involves and the difference between shopper research and category research.

Shopper research typically involves qualitative or quantitative research and sometimes, a combination of these approaches.

Qualitative Research

Qualitative research for a consumer healthcare brand focuses on understanding the intricate dynamics of consumer behaviours and opinions. Leveraging methodologies like focus groups, ethnography and in-depth interviews, qualitative research can reveal the underlying attitudes, motivations, and concerns that drive consumer choices in consumer healthcare categories.

Through qualitative research, we can gain invaluable insights into how consumers engage with the different brands in a category and their perceptions of each brand’s efficacy, trustworthiness, and alignment with their health goals and values.

Quantitative Research

Quantitative research takes a robust approach to mapping out the market landscape for a consumer healthcare brand. Through surveys conducted across a broad respondent base, we employ statistical analysis to uncover patterns, preferences, and correlations among consumers. This gives us tangible metrics on market penetration, consumer demographics, purchasing patterns, user/shopper segments, and brand loyalty. Thus, we can equip brands with actionable insights to inform product development, pricing strategies, and targeted marketing initiatives, ensuring relevance and resonance with their target audience.

We often use quantitative research like this to reveal different people’s Shopper Missions. For example, we ask respondents to think about the last time that they bought a specific product in-store and what else they bought on that shopping journey. Many shoppers buy over-the-counter (OTC) categories when they need to treat or address a specific ailment or self-care goal. On shopping journeys like this, where the Shopper Mission is to buy your brand or category, you might not need to work as hard as if the shopper adds your product to their basket on a larger shopping journey, like a weekly grocery shop.

It’s interesting to see when the shoppers who buy one product, like a cold and flu medicine, tend to buy a different category, like tissues, at the same time. You can then create adjacencies and put the categories close together to encourage impulse purchases and basket sizes. This will benefit the retailer and enhance the likelihood of maintaining or expanding your shelf space.

Category Research

Category research evaluates how a category is organised and whether it aligns with shoppers’ perceptions. For us, this might involve taking respondents into the retail landscape. We then get their feedback on the store environment. Beyond examining how products are grouped within a store, this research assesses aspects like store layout, size, and its look and feel, to understand their impact on consumer behaviour.

An illustrative example of category-specific research involves examining the journey a shopper takes within a category. While a business might categorise products under a specific label like “Supplement Shakes,” consumers often approach their purchase decisions more holistically. For instance, someone seeking to improve their gut health may initially explore a broader range of products, transitioning from supplement tablets to supplement drinks before narrowing down to a specific sub-segment of the category. By recognising and understanding the various consumer pathways, businesses can tailor their category management strategies to better meet shoppers’ evolving needs and preferences.

“You can create adjacencies to encourage impulse purchases and basket sizes. This will benefit the retailer and enhance the likelihood of maintaining or expanding your shelf space.”

2 – How can brand owners effectively target specific shopper groups?

Identifying different customer segments is critical, especially in large quantitative studies. We usually segment according to the attitudes and behaviours that glue different shoppers together. It often has nothing to do with their age, gender, or socioeconomic grouping. We ask the sorts of questions that draw people apart in terms of their attitudes to a category and their Purchase Decision Hierarchies (i.e. their priorities while making purchase decisions), which could be fuelled by our findings from qualitative research.

Then, we align and compare the shoppers’ attitudinal differences with their behavioural differences to understand what they want and how to convert them. This recognition helps you understand the wider competitive set, where your brand fits in the category, and how to influence purchasing behaviour.

Typically, we identify five to seven reproducible shopper segments. Major retailers often employ segmentation strategies centred on life stages, activating around factors like age and income. We can recreate those segments too, which enables our clients to discuss with retailers the segments that the retailer works to and strategise how to target their customer base more effectively.

3 – Can you give an example of how businesses can use segmentation to propel their brand’s performance?

Segmenting enables you to analyse different types of shoppers in detail, understand what makes them tick, and strategise which shopper segments to target and how.

Developing highly relevant campaigns and communications for specific groups of people in-store yields far better results than generic campaigns that target everyone. This doesn’t mean ignoring other segments but prioritising the ones with high potential.

As an illustration, if you’re a premium, sustainable brand, you would target shopper segments driven by sustainability rather than promotions. Likewise, if you identify a large shopper segment interested in new product development (NPD) in your category, you can conduct further research to pinpoint what they are looking for and develop tailored strategies to drive them to make a purchase.

“This recognition helps you understand the wider competitive set, where your brand fits in the category, and how to influence purchasing behaviour. ”

4 – What role does understanding shopper segmentation play in improving category performance?

Segmentation can reveal whether the retailer is under-trading or over-trading in a particular category. This enables you as the brand owner to identify areas in which the retailer isn’t meeting their customers’ needs, which is incredibly compelling information to bring to them as it enables them to adapt the category accordingly.

By providing retailers with insights into their shoppers’ attitudes and behaviours, you can collaborate with them on a category management strategy in line with shoppers’ Purchase Decision Hierarchies and improve category performance. This may involve optimising product assortment, adjusting pricing, and refining promotional strategies to target different customer segments more effectively, benefitting the store group and its customers.

Collaborating with the retailer on category management shows true category leadership credentials in that it’s not just saying, “You should stock more of my brand.” It’s saying, “You need to manage the category in a different way internally.” Being honest and objective in that way will gain long-term retailer trust rather than serving short-term brand requirements.

5 – So far we’ve just been discussing how to use shopper research to boost brand performance in the UK, but the retail landscape varies wildly across countries. Can you support Health & Wellness brands in multiple global markets? If so, how?

““Our unique connection with Ceuta International empowers us to offer unparalleled local insights into over 100 global markets. We integrate our research findings with practical expertise from Ceuta International and develop strategies that are grounded in data, feasible, and effective in real-world scenarios.””

The extent of knowledge and research required to expand a Health & Wellness brand’s global footprint is something that no other research company can provide. Usually, Health & Wellness brands need upwards of ten or twenty international and local distributors, each with their own researchers and branding teams, who understand all the nuances and complexities of their market and can advise accordingly.

Yet, our unique connection with Ceuta International empowers us to offer unparalleled local insights into over 100 global markets. We integrate our research findings with practical expertise from Ceuta International and develop strategies that are grounded in data, feasible, and effective in real-world scenarios. Then, we recommend practical steps our clients can take forward from the insights provided and how they can implement them into their strategies. We root these recommendations in commercial discipline, focusing on activation, the commercial realties of the cost of doing business outside of domestic markets, and its commercial and strategic implications.

6 – If you could leave readers with one final message or final piece of advice, what would it be?

The most important point to take away from this interview is that research and insight are indispensable to a brand’s success in the OTC and Health & Wellness market.

By combining insights from both quantitative and qualitative research methods, you can gain a thorough understanding of shoppers’ behaviour, attitudes, and decision-making processes. This understanding enables you to enhance your brand’s commercial performance, stand out in the competitive retail market, and provide a very credible voice when it comes to trade channel/retailer negotiations.

“Up-to-date insights will also help you stay ahead of the curve, empowering you to solidify your partnership with retailers while pinpointing exactly what shoppers are looking for and tailoring your strategies accordingly.”

If you would like support gathering the essential insights you need to achieve your brand objectives, please get in touch. We have extensive industry experience and unmatched research capabilities. We can help you navigate the intricacies of launching and expanding your brand, whether that’s in one market or across several. We can deliver all this through one main point of contact, contract, and budget.

To find out more about how to unlock the true potential of your brand, get in touch.

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